The Characteristics of a Resilient Athlete

The Characteristics of a Resilient Athlete

What is resilience, and how does resiliency impact an athlete’s growth?

Resilience is a mental attribute that helps an athlete rise to challenges (making comebacks late in a competition), successfully deal with adversity (competing when your game is off or competing in difficult playing conditions), and cope with difficult situations (dealing with injury).

All athletes can identify performances or situations where they were overwhelmed by their circumstances.

Allowing your circumstances to dictate your behavior leads to poor results, choking, bad attitudes, finger-pointing, team conflict, inability to come back, emotional outbursts, and giving up mid-competition.

What qualities contribute to resilience:

  • AdaptabilityResilient athletes bounce back, whether mid-competition (mounting a comeback, overcoming mistakes) or during the season (dealing with an injury or a losing streak).
  • Composure – A composed athlete stays poised under pressure and sees challenges as opportunities to raise their game. They are the master over their emotions, instead of reacting emotionally when things don’t go their way, such as questionable officiating or taunts from their opponents.
  • ConfidentResilient athletes look for ways to turn the tide when their game plan is not working and trust their abilities to perform under pressure.
  • Laser-FocusedResilient athletes have the uncanny knack of concentrating on the task at hand despite internal and external distractions.

Instead of being consumed by a mistake earlier in a competition, they have a clear understanding of what needs to be done in the moment.

* Persistent – Resilient athletes keep pushing forward. They stay motivated, work harder, and work smarter.

* Optimistic – Resilient athletes maintain a positive perspective, whether winning or losing and see opportunity in adversity.

Most importantly, resilient athletes understand that resilience can be learned and honed.

One example of resilience is the San Francisco 49ers during the 2024 NFC championship game. The 49ers trailed 24-7 at halftime. The 49ers scored 27 unanswered points between the third and fourth quarters as they rallied back to defeat the Detroit Lions, 34-31, to advance to the Super Bowl.

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey commented on the team’s resilience, an attribute that they relied on throughout the season.

McCAFFREY: “That’s why football is four quarters. We knew we had the guys that if we were gonna do it, we got the guys that can make it happen. Just so proud to be a part of this group. Showed a lot of resilience, this week and last week.”

You will experience adversity throughout your athletic career (injuries, mistakes, losses, bad officiating, conflicts with a coach, unfavorable playing conditions, trailing late in a game, etc).

Resilience will help you navigate difficulties and perform better under pressure. Resilience will bring you closer to your athletic potential.

Study the examples of athletes who exhibit resilience. There are countless examples of athletes who have overcome similar circumstances to the ones you are facing.

Examine how they responded in those situations.

It’s important to understand that resilience is not an all-or-nothing trait. You develop resilience over time by how you choose to respond to your circumstances and intentional effort.

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